HOUSTON (AP) — Houston Texans left tackle Duane Brown has found his comfort zone, on the field and off it.
The 6-foot-4, 320-pound Brown got married over the summer and comes into this season with peace of mind to go along with four years of starting experience in the NFL. A first-round pick in 2008, Brown has developed into one of the game’s top offensive lineman and a soft-spoken leader in the locker room.
Last year, Brown was an Associated Press second-team All-Pro after not allowing a sack in 16 starts.
“Everything’s been going great,” Brown said. “I had the best season of my career, I got engaged and now I’m married. I’m set to have another big season now. I’ve still got to work hard and go out and work hard, but I’m very confident in my ability.”
The Texans (No. 6 in the AP Pro32) set franchise records in yards rushing (2,448) and rushing attempts (546) and led the NFL in possession time last season behind one of the league’s best offensive lines.
Houston will break in new starters on the right side of the line, but Brown has proven to be a durable anchor on the left side, starting 16 games in three of his first four seasons.
He was suspended four games in 2010 for a positive test for a supplement on the league’s list of banned substances. Brown acknowledged then that he made a “naive” mistake and was scared straight by “the longest four weeks of my life.”
Offensive line coach John Benton said Brown has developed a new level of maturity since then and sharpened his mechanics.
“It’s gotten to the point with him where it’s one block here, one block there,” Benton said. “We’re down to some finite things with him. I think there’s a little ways to go on his backside blocking, but he’s got that spark in his eye. He knows how close he is to really being great and he wants to keep moving up. He’s been very productive for us.”
Quarterback Matt Schaub takes the praise a step further.
“Duane molded himself into, in my opinion, the best left tackle in the game,” Schaub said. “I never have to worry about Duane and what he’s doing and what he has on his plate because he’s going to get the job done.”
Brown seems to have luck on his side, too. Last week, Brown got tangled in a pile and came out limping, a potentially crippling injury for the Texans, who have Super Bowl aspirations this season. An MRI exam showed only a bone bruise in his lower left leg, and Brown was back at practice full-speed on Monday.
“It was pretty scary, initially,” Brown said. “It got kind of weak on me, but as the day wore on, it felt better. I feel pretty good about it.”
He feels pretty good about his personal life, too. He married radio host and MTV personality Devon “Devi Dev” Anjelica in Southern California in July and the two went on a weeklong honeymoon in Thailand.
“Every day, it sinks in,” said Brown, who turns 27 this month. “I do feel a little changed, more focused. It’s another step in life, and I think it’ll help me in my career. I’m more focused on my livelihood. My life is more structured now. I’m able to focus more on my job.”
While Benton sorts out starting roles on the right side, he knows he can count on Brown to man the left side. And Benton says Brown’s versatility gives coaches more flexibility in how they use him.
“With his athleticism, he enables us to put things in the game plan that we probably wouldn’t be able to do with other tackles,” Benton said. “We can put him out in space and rely on him to block and do the job. He’s athletic enough to get that done.
“He’s got an answer for whatever anybody brings him,” Benton said. “He’s very good with his hands now, he’s very explosive. If he gets in a position to put a shot on you, he’ll do some damage.”
NOTES: Kicker Randy Bullock sat out Tuesday’s morning practice with groin soreness. … Texans president Jamey Rootes says Houston is interested in hosting the first championship game of college football’s new playoff system, in January 2015. Reliant Stadium has hosted the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas since 2006. Rootes spoke at a press conference where he announced the winners of a ticket giveaway run in conjunction with the Texans lottery.
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